The widespread use of non-compliant and flammable cladding has become a central focus for owners corporations, lot owners, fire authorities and governments alike after recent fires in Melbourne and – more tragically – London.
The Lacrosse Towers fire in Docklands in 2014 prompted a city-wide audit of buildings while the disastrous fire at Grenfell Towers in London in June 2017 was responsible for at least 80 deaths.
Both fires were in some way fuelled by the very materials which were used in the construction of the buildings external walls.
While lot owners all over Melbourne may feel helpless in tackling the ongoing issue of non-compliant cladding, as they await clear guidelines and timelines from government for the inspection and removal of non-compliant cladding, there is something they can do to immediately to ensure the safety of their building in the event of a fire.
Strata Plan sat down with Alistair Nicoll, founder of LinkFire, after a recent in-house training session who said that while both the Lacrosse Tower and Grenfell Tower fires were able to spread so quickly because of the cladding used on the outside of the building, there was one critical difference between the two buildings that meant there were no deaths in Melbourne and over 80 in London.
“The difference between the Docklands fire and the London fire, both similar buildings with flammable cladding, was that one had [fire safety] systems in there that operated and the other didn’t,” Mr. Nicoll explained.
“Eighty people died in London, no one died or was injured in the other.”
Mr. Nicoll explained that ensuring a building’s fire safety system was adequate and worked should be one of the biggest priorities for Melbourne Owners Corporations.
“Owners and occupiers won’t have much input into the construction of the building and if it’s been identified that your property has flammable cladding, there’s not a lot they can do in the immediate future,” he explained.
“The jury is still out, we’re still waiting for the government to play their hand and dictate what has to be done with respect to the removal or rectification of cladding.
“For an owner, an Owners Corporation or their manager, there’s not a lot that can be done right now, but what they can do quickly is make sure that all the safety systems, the Essential Safety Measures, in the building are operating and operating as they were designed to do.
“In the event of a fire, that’s going to the thing that gives them the best chance.”
Mr. Nicoll said that aside from having systems or safety measures in place, it was also important that a buildings annual Essential Services Measures (ESM) report and system testing was able to show how different systems were talking to each other.
“When the owners get their ESM report each year, the things that get missed the most is the interface test,” Mr. Nicoll said.
“So you might have someone come and check the fire extinguisher and check the sprinklers and the fire pump, but are they doing the annual flow test? Or the annual pump test? Are they testing that all the systems, from the sprinklers to the mechanical ventilation to the air pressurisation and the automatic opening of exit doors are talking to each other.
“Someone might check every individual system, but will the systems talk to one another when the building enters fire mode?
“There’s a huge variance in the quotes that go out there for this testing and I think things are being missed because owners look at the price of the testing and not what’s included.”
Lot owners or committee members who would like to enquire as to what testing and or systems are present in or available to their buildings should get in touch with us today.
Customers wanting to learn more about how their Owners Corporations can better audit their buildings’ safety measures should head to our YouTube channel for more videos like the one in this article.
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